To me relationships are an investment. My time. My money. My emotions. I’m not the kind of guy to sit and chat about the weather. I want to get to know you. Your passions. Your successes. Your failures. I want to get underneath the surface and see who you really are. What can I say, I’m a designer… I practice empathy for a living.

In my 30 years of being on Earth I’ve never been in a fist-fight. Which in my opinion is a huge feat considering I spent the first portion of my life living in Stockton, CA. You know, the city that went bankrupt, and a place that you wouldn’t shouldn’t stay in, you just pass through. I’ve just never been a fighting type of guy. If my Dad’s stories growing up are any indication, I’m sure that I could hold my own.

But I don’t rage or lash out. I shut down. DEFENSE MODE ENGAGE.

For more constructive feedback try reframing opinions.

Anyway, the point is that I deal with issues a lot differently than others. When someone criticizes my work I get quiet and just process. Sometimes, it can really deflate me. I KNOW. I’m a sensy pants. But really, who likes hearing about things you suck at?

In my experience I’ve heard some very harsh comments:

Feedback like that feels like an attack on me personally because it’s rude and doesn’t show me that we are on the same team. In these cases, I find myself isolated by my own perspective, hindered from listening to feedback about my designs even though it’s absolutely necessary to create the optimal solution.

confessions_pullquote

On the flip side, great constructive criticism has been something that really drives me and inspires great design improvements. Some examples include:

Growth is straight up hard, but necessary. Constructive design feedback facilitates my growth and challenges me to push the limits with my creativity.

Creatives are emotional beings.

I think a lot of people wonder why designers are so sensitive when it comes to their work. But you’ve got to understand… it’s frustrating when you put your heart and soul into a project and someone comes along and tears it all down. And I don’t mean in the “design teardown” kinda way.

Boost Your UX Skills View Reading List

Recently I’ve been getting too invested with my work. It’s been a huge struggle for me and it’s caused me to be a bit emotional. C’mon dude. Can one really be too invested? Yep, sure can. And I do it. All the time. It reminds me of when Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber is fantasizing while driving. He’s already in love with her, planning their life together, and she doesn’t even know his freaking name. He’s already too invested.

At some point you need to step back from your work, gain a fresh perspective, be objective, and not let the thoughtless comments or the stress get to you.

Communication tips for creative collaboration.

Here are some practical steps you can take that will help enhance your work relationships and help build trust among your team:

confessions_steps

Video meetings – We love seeing our clients in person, but most of them are in San Francisco or somewhere out of state. It’s easier to fully understand what they are saying, and how they are saying it when there’s a video feed.

Collaboration  When you make the effort to collaborate with your clients you are communicating that you are a part of their team and that you value their input.

Explain the “why”  Don’t just shoot off an email with the JPGs attached. Make a list of detailed notes explaining just why you made that CTA fire engine red or why you chose to massage the headline copy. (Also, see above re: video meetings).

Share early and often  Involving clients earlier in the project has been so beneficial for me. I’ve been a little hesitant to do this but clients eat it up.

Include GIFs occasionally in your emails  Everyone likes GIFs right? Okay, this isn’t a must, but I do love sending GIFs from time to time to lighten up the mood.

Practice proactive empathy.

Combatting tough situations starts with your attitude. Maintaining positivity towards each other and embracing that good design is about process, not product. Just because a client wants your design to ‘pop’ doesn’t mean they have no clue what they are talking about. Just because they push your pixels (see what I did there?) a little too far doesn’t give you the right to get all Negative Nancy.

Clients invest their money while designers invest their time – that design project is everyone’s baby. Before you have a pitch or send out an email for feedback, take a deep breath and proactively choose to be empathetic with your clients. You’ll see the bigger picture and be a whole lot happier in the end.

Have any tough client situations or comments of your own? Tell us in the comments below.

Comments
  • Hi I am Javier from México, I’ve been working in a Real Estate Agency as Web Designer for 3 years. I really enjoyed your post, I think I’ve been lucky so far because every design that I’ve showed to my boss, he says : “Let’s do it”, but at the same time I think this is not the best way to improve my designs. Thanks for share your experience.

    • Dustin LaMont

      Javier, glad you enjoyed the post! The goal really was to share my experience and hopefully encourage and empower other designers. Super grateful that it did that for you. Hope you’re well!

  • Excellent post, Thanks for sharing such an useful experince with us..

    • Dustin LaMont

      Drew, thanks for reading and for the kind comment! Appreciate it!

  • Great read! I’m always looking for better ways of communicating with clients. I checked out the Digital Telepathy website, looks like you’ve got a User Experience designer’s dream job! Do you have to know much code to work at Digital Telepathy if you’re going for the UX designer job?

  • Dustin LaMont

    Amanda, thanks for the compliment! And no, you don’t need to know a lot of code for the sake of writing it. However, it is good that are knowledgeable about different aspect of code such as Bootstrap, etc. Hope that helps!

  • It is true that clients invest their money and designers invest their time. Designers are creative people and they have passion for their work. So when they get involved in certain projects too much, it is very hard for them to hear when clients have to consider some design changes or adjustments here and there with their own preferences. This could lead to conflict of interests as both parties have invested in the project what is precious to them. That’s why it is essential to clarify facets and sort out the differences before starting any projects.

  • Himanshu

    Hi, I am Web and Mobile app designer. I really like the way and what you have written. It Great!
    One thing i want share from my experience is, sometime the design that we like, client never like that, and the another creepy, or unbalanced design client likes very much, that we never want to show in our portfolio.

  • Aaron

    Hi Dustin,

    I really liked this blog post. I’ve been working in a front-end position in a fairly large company for about a year now and I really connected with a lot of what you wrote here. Out of frustration on somebody “pushing my pixels”, I ended up on this post. Your post gave me a lot of perspective!

    Thanks!